A doctor accused of performing unlawful euthanasia defended her actions as ones of conscience in a recent interview with Kyodo News.
“I did it because I thought at that time it was a good thing to do,” she said.
The doctor, who works at a hospital in Kawasaki city, added, “What I felt was all written in the medical records.”
Five days before the patient died, the doctor wrote in her records, “I would like to end (his life) before he suffers too much.”
She then refrained from administering positive treatment to the patient. In a letter written three days before the patient’s death, she instructed that no measures should be taken to prolong the patient’s life. This included resuscitation of the heart and lungs if they ceased to function.
Medical records kept at Kawasaki Kyodo Hospital showed the 47-year-old doctor gave three injections of a sedative and then told a nurse to administer a muscle relaxant to her comatose patient, then 58. Shortly afterward, he died.
The doctor gave him the shots because he was having difficulty breathing after a tracheal tube was removed Nov. 16, 1998, according to the records. Hospital officials said the muscle relaxant was administered by the nurse with 19 months of experience.
The patient was hospitalized after suffering heart and respiratory failure following an asthma attack on his way home from work. Although his heart recovered functioning, he remained in a coma and needed a tracheal tube to breathe, hospital officials said.
An interim report compiled by the hospital’s investigative committee described the removal of the tube as an “act leading to death” and said the administration of a muscle relaxant ensured the death.
A hospital source said, “There are employees (at the hospital) who point out that the doctor thought there was no use in administering life-prolonging measures.”
Even after the incident was brought to light, other patients expressed support for the doctor, who resigned in late February this year. “When I told her I wanted to be released from the hospital, she immediately arranged that, saying, ‘If you are all right in medical examinations, (then that is fine)’ ” said an 82-year-old woman suffering from the same disease. But the hospital raised questions about that case as well. According to the interim report, the doctor decided on her own when her patient was to be released from the hospital. She did not consult with nurses or explain the patient’s condition to family members.
She was also often absent from conferences concerning medical-treatment policies with nurses. Hospital executives took no action when the chief nurse asked them to address the situation, hospital sources said.
Prior to the revelation of the incident, there were at least three reports concerning the doctor’s questionable actions, according to testimony from concerned sources.
Despite repeated calls from her colleagues to address the situation after the man died, the then hospital director gave her only a verbal warning and kept the case under wraps.
Last October — about three years after the incident — hospital officials took up the issue. They acted only after a hospital employee involved in a dispute with the doctor over medical treatment made an appeal to the present director.
The interim report says hospital executives at the time of the incident “could not take a resolute attitude toward her because they were concerned about the increasing shortage of doctors.”
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